Wildcats Qualify for BIG EAST Championship with 1-0 Win over Cincinnati
Oct. 28, 2007
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Senior Stacia Hartung (Rochester, N.Y.) moved into a tie for the team lead with her fifth goal of the season and Villanova (10-3-6, 4-3-4 Big East) qualified for the coming week's BIG EAST Championship with a 1-0 win over Cincinnati (6-10-2, 3-7-1 Big East) on Sunday afternoon at the West Campus Soccer Complex. The Wildcats secured sole possession of fourth place in the league's National Division and will play a home game in the first round of the conference tournament.
Today's victory gives Villanova a ninth consecutive season with at least 10 victories and a winning record, a feat the team has now achieved in 17 of its 25 years as a varsity program. In addition, the team earns a trip to the conference tournament for the seventh straight season and remains undefeated in the last eight years when scoring the first goal of a game (96-0-5).
"We had our backs against the wall coming into this weekend after a tough three weeks," Villanova head coach Ann Clifton said. "I think in the last couple of days we backed up that we are a very good team that ran into some bad luck. As a team our feeling is that is the time that we can make a difference. The players want to see how far they can go and for our senior class it means a lot to them to go as far as they can this season and prove themselves on the national scene."
The goal the team scored today came at the 30:47 mark after the Bearcats failed in an attempt to clear the ball out of their territory. A fierce wind blowing across the field impacted several plays during the contest and Hartung was able to intercept the clear attempt and beat the Cincinnati goalkeeper from inside the penalty box.
Cincinnati generated a few scoring chances midway through the first half but from that point on was contained by the Wildcats elite defense. Villanova owned a 17-8 shot advantage for the game and a 7-0 edge in corner kicks while posting its 13th shutout of the season in 19 games.
Senior goalkeeper Jillian Loyden (Vineland, N.J.) had two saves in tying her own career-best with her 11th solo shutout of the year, matching her total from last season. Loyden got an assist from her defense when senior Kayce Blandford (Columbia, Md.) stopped a shot in front of the net in the 26th minute. Loyden had come out of the goal to take a ball away from Melissa Bigg, but the Bearcat forward regained possession and got a shot off just seconds later.
This was the fourth time this season that the Wildcats did not allow their opponent a single corner kick and the 11th time that the opposition had no more than 10 shots in a contest. Through 19 games, Villanova owns a 128-46 edge in corner kicks and takes 17.1 shots compared with just 10.7 by opposing teams.
Hartung's playmaking abilities have been a key part of the Wildcat offense this season, and she seized upon the opportunity to collect a ball away from Cincinnati and score her third game-winning goal of the season. Hartung led all players with four shots in the game, while junior Erin Hardiman (Galloway, N.J.) had three shots and senior Nikki Mabery (Phoenix, Ariz.) two shots.
"Stacia is incredibly fun to watch on the field and right now she is also incredibly effective," Clifton said. "Her playmaking is what we are looking for from our forwards but the big thing this season is that Stacia is also making the players around her better. She has become a player that other teams have to be fearful of because she is so dangerous."
The last two weeks of the regular season saw a see-saw race in the BIG EAST divisional standings. Villanova's win on Sunday, combined with Rutgers loss to Notre Dame, ensured the Wildcats fourth place in the National Division once and for all.
Next up for Villanova is a BIG EAST Championship first round game against University of South Florida, which secured the #5 seed in the American Division. The teams will play on Thursday beginning at 1 p.m. at the West Campus Soccer Complex. The Wildcats and Bulls played to a scoreless tie earlier this season in Tampa, and USF will enter Thursday's game with a 4-9-3 overall record and 3-6-2 conference mark.
NOTES: The game-winning goal was the fourth of Hartung's career ... Loyden posted her 36th career solo shutout and 47th career victory, extending her school record in each category ... Today was the final regular season home game for seven Villanova seniors, who were honored at a private team reception on Saturday evening as well as prior to this afternoon's game ... The senior class includes Loyden, Blandford, Hartung, Mabery, Kaley Guthrie (Ogdensburg, N.J.), Jenna Gordon (White Plains, N.Y.) and Melissa Murowski (Warren, N.J.).